SSE Women's FA Cup semi-final: Arsenal v Sunderland, boss bans Wembley talk
Sunderland must put aside all thoughts of Wembley.
That was the view today of Sunderland Ladies manager Carlton Fairweather.
The Lady Black Cats face a titanic battle in the capital on Sunday when they take on Arsenal in the SSE FA Cup semi-final (kick-off 2pm).
Success at Meadow Park in Borehamwood would set up Sunderland for a return to a more famous North London venue on May 14.
But the W-word, while not banned, is not being bandied about by Fairweather, who famously was a member of the Crazy Gang which shocked Liverpool at Wembley when Wimbledon won the 1988 FA Cup.
“I don’t want to talk about Wembley,” said the head coach, who was spectator the day Liverpool were beaten, because of a broken leg.
“I just want us to concentrate on this game, I think that’s the best option.
“I want to get across to the girls that Sunday is our cup final.
“We cannot afford to look too far ahead – Arsenal must be the only thing inour minds.
“If we prepare right, execute our game plan, then we have a chance.
“Arsenal are a great side, but no team is unbeatable – we are the underdogs and we have nothing to lose.”
Fairweather admits Arsenal are the favourites and Sunderland must produce a top-drawer performance to beat them.
“Arsenal have a very good squad and they can probably afford to carry one or two players,” said the Londoner.
“We don’t have that luxury. Everyone is going to have to be up for it and everyone will have to do their jobs if we are going to get anything from the game.”
Abby Holmes is a doubt for Sunderland after getting a knock in the 3-0 quarter-final win over Reading, but Rachael Laws (England), Rachel Furness (N Ireland). Steph Roche (Republic of Irelannd) and Emma Kelly (England U20) all have clean bills of health after international duty.
Sunderland have made an unbeaten start to the season. Admittedly, it is early days – two FA Cup wins (Yeovil 2-0 and Reading 3-0) and a 1-1 draw with the Royals in WSL1. Brooke Chaplen leads the way on three goals with Beth Mead on two.
Arsenal have shown their winning qualities to date in the FA Cup, beating Birmingham and Notts Co in penalty shoot-outs.